It’s not difficult to find examples of book covers by Ivan Chermayeff (1932–2017). They’ve been featured in monographs about his long and legendary partnership with Tom Geismar, magazine profiles of their firm, and surveys of book cover design; they’ve been selected for inclusion in numerous AIGA competitions. Chermayeff's best covers share qualities with his celebrated logos, posters, advertisements, and collages: they’re charming, clever, witty, and fun. Although it may not be difficult to find examples of his covers, when they’re shown with other examples of his work it’s easy to overlook them. Displayed alongside his firm’s intimately familiar logos for Mobil, Showtime, MoMA, and Chase, they tend to get lost. We’re inclined to notice and remember what we already know, and miss what’s less familiar to us: when in a crowd we seek out faces we recognize, the rest we barely register.
In this inaugural exhibition of the Katherine Small Gallery, Chermayeff’s (mostly) early covers take center stage. A handful of his firm’s logos for Boston institutions (MBTA, WGBH, the New England Aquarium) as well as designs for national and international companies are shown for context, but this is an opportunity to focus on forty-one of Chermayeff’s less-celebrated designs without being overwhelmed by the iconic work for which he is so well known. This is our chance to concentrate on new faces in the crowd, and gain insight into the remarkable career of Ivan Chermayeff.